W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dance×Mixer beta review

Before we start, here's something to show you:

I knew this coming. No single Anime character in recent history (ee... Anime history is short and goes fast) has had such an impact as our diva. Not Haruhi, not Kira Yamato, not L. And she doesn't even have her own series to start with.

Yet I was one of those suckers who bought the $100 figure which had to be re-released 3 times. For no apparent reason. I was just thinking that one day I have my own hi-fi corner, recording studio, or an audio shop, she must be displayed somewhere. Else I wouldn't be an audio geek.

If there were a dance editor, she MUST be in it.

So here we go.

And the scary part is, she looks like the original version. Not the cutified hard-color version that seems to be more popular, but the original concept art from Yamaha.

Ok ok, to the review...

I usually don't do reviews because others would have done it. But since others have not, I will take the liberty of doing so. This is for people who have not gotten the software and are wondering if this is the right thing for them/their computers.

Speaking of "their computers", this thing has pretty demanding requirements. Not CPU - apparently it thinks it needs as much time to encode as to render, when it can be compressed to H.264 in less than half the time it takes to render), not RAM - I have only one gig yet I never hear my hard disk scratching, but THE GRAPHICS CARD - I have a HD3850 and I can't even preview properly with more than one character on screen. And rendering takes a farking long time - maybe 5x the video duration or way longer.

HD3850 is a mid-range card by today's standards. So this software has to be used with a HD4870 or GTX260 or something even better. Apparently the official recommended requirement of GeForce 8 series is for reference only - the highest in the series is the 8800GT, which the HD3800 series has a performance close to. If a HD3850 lags so bad, god knows what happens to 8600GT which is less than half as powerful.

And HDD space requirements, this program is stupid enough to think that on-the-fly encoding requires as much space as uncompressed. So 20GB for a short dance. Cool.

On to the wardrobe (and cloning center/DNA modification facility)

Since this is just a small (250MB) beta for testing and teaser purposes, do not expect the wardrobe to be filled. Audition, IdolM@ster, (insert random hentai game here) all have more clothing choices than this.

The cloning center also has its problems - apparently it cannot clone anything above 12 years old (or 14 years old and 142cm according to the developers). This is fixed in an update.

Dance editor - this is where all hell breaks loose.

Firstly, have you ever seen an editor (of any media) that CANNOT adjust length and duration other than by a factor/multiplier of 2? This is one.

Luckily I found a way past it for the camera, but for all others (dance, lights, effects), you're pretty much fukked. It wouldn't be a problem if the effects come in multiples of 8 beats, but noooooooooooooo.

Yes, dance. You CANNOT adjust how many out of the whole 8 beat you want to use and what to exclude. This is stupid if you want to use part of the move e.g. the first half while having variations in the second half. And this is stupid because you cannot cut off anything that you do not need for a move that needs NINE beats. How are we supposed to use a move with 9 beats? These kind of moves appear often in real life usually as a finisher, but without a way to cut the next move this is just going to introduce lag, hence making their use impossible if not painful.

The separated dance movements are stupid also - it seems to assume the guy (or girl - limitations of the cloning center, but nobody's complaining) must start from a standstill and end with a standstill. This is a dance goddammit. Not a dork. And without a way to cut the useless start and end and replace it with motion tweening, the tweens are next to useless since you'd be tweening to stupid positions.

Having dance moves in 8 beats also means loads of problems in choreography. Too many moves to select from the list, less than half that makes sense for each particular genre of music, and almost nil that is halfway similar to what you had in mind. If you are an otaku with no music or artistic background watsoever, then good as this makes it more convenient, but for somebody who wants serious work...

And the speed adjustments (which is a bad replacement for duration adjustments) does not work well with dance at all. You just see them in slow motion. Which is stupid. It feels like Audition.

The developers should've gone with key frames in a dance move that can be mixed and matched, solving the problem of too long a list and yet not enough choice. That will solve the speed problems as people just increase the waiting time between actions, not slow them down.

Even better would be to include the ability to make our own moves. Shouldn't be too hard for anybody with some experience in making things move.

And the PV is misleading. Apparently they custom-made all the moves. Then cut them out into sections to make it as if it was created with the editor. This trick fails obviously.

Verdict - This thing does not pass as professional software. But if you're a professional, doing it from scratch shouldn't be too hard. We have Time Leap Paradise and Dream C Club coming up this summer. The former is more doujin then mainstream, the latter has an engine better than The IdolM@ster. If they can do that, I don't see why anyone serious on rendered dance cannot.

Note that I tested the beta version. The full version will have improvements, but apparently not much as of now. And probably not on the serious parts, because the engine itself is flawed in the first place.

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